Tuesday, August 2, 2016

RAMROD 2016 (Les Becker's Account)

Author:  Les Becker

The start line this year was moved to Thunder Mountain Middle School where there was no parking for the day or for overnight. So I was pleased that my niece, Jerrinne, allowed Dwaine and I to park his travel trailer (thanks Dwaine for use of your trailer) at their house which is on 6 acres located 4 flat miles from the start. We enjoyed visiting with them Wednesday evening and seeing all their goats, chickens and ducks. In the darkness of 4:00am the next morning I realized it would have been much easier and smarter to mix my Skratch hydration fluid and set the pressure in my tires the evening before. My bike headlight was helpful getting us to the start line and meet up with Scott Wager uneventfully. However, we couldn’t find Kurt and Mario and at 5:15, our agreed upon start time, it would have been easier for me to hold back a team of wild horses than to hold back Dwaine and Scott so off we went. We were feeling great, following a long line of other riders and chatting excitedly. I only vaguely remember Dwaine muttering something about the cue sheet showing a turn only one block from the start. About a mile later, small groups ahead of us began stopping and saying to their buddies things like “Hey, do you know where you are going?” Then when the group turned east, when I knew we needed to go west, I knew we were off course, but not lost, because Dwaine determined how to wind our way through some residential neighborhoods to get us back on track. A great start!

We had only spotty pacelines until turning onto Orville Rd, where as usual, riders coalesced into a long line. We agreed that the pace was a bit faster than we wanted since we were aware of the need to conserve energy. Past Kapowsin and Ohop Lakes we did roughly 23-26 mph. Per our plans, we rode past the first rest stop in Eatonville and were largely on our own until after Elbe. Then we joined a group, but this time it was too slow. Soon others joined us and we split into appropriate groups and arrived at the second rest stop just before the park entrance and did stop for BR break and food/water. Dwaine likes to grab food for his pockets and get back on the bike quickly. He said he’d soft pedal until we caught up. Shortly after, Scott & I left with food in stomachs and pockets. After awhile, I asked Scott what he thought Dwaine meant by “soft pedal.” But we did eventually catch up. In the stretch around Longmire I found myself in a spot of difficulty. This irritated me because this location had been a problem for me on other RAMRODs. I thought this section would go better for me because I felt that I hadn’t burned too much energy prior and felt good coming out of the rest stop. So I did what any reasonable rider would do. I got irrational and decided to push at any cost to stay with the group of I think 4-6 riders, and if I blow up, the heck with it! Fortunately I was able to hang on, and in fact led the group from well below the bridge over the Nisqually all the way to Inspiration Point, but not w/out a cost. Boy was I tired. Scott had chosen a more reasonable pace coming up the hill, so Dwaine and I proceeded down the long beautiful descent to the Box Canyon rest stop; with me in tow. I was surprised to see only about 10 other riders as we pulled in. By skipping the first rest stop and then doing a decent pace up Paradise, we were clearly towards the front. Again Dwaine’s stop was quick and he left. The next time I saw him was at Thunder Mountain Middle School. Just as he left, I heard “Hey, Les!” and saw Scott pulling in. He had made very good time himself.

Scott and I left soon after and rode together chatting up Backbone Ridge (one of Mike’s so-called “passes”; sorry… inside joke!). Well at least Scott was chatting; I was quite breathless to talk much. Sorry Scott, wasn’t trying to ignore you. Climbing Cayuse in 91 deg heat was particularly difficult for me this year. Or do I just forget how much I’ve suffered on previous RAMRODs? Maybe it’s always like this. Lots of existential thoughts and blurred meaning-of-life thoughts swirl through my head on that harsh segment. Again, Scott took a more reasonable pace. The hill threw some leg cramps at me just as I approached the top, just to make sure I didn’t take anything for granted… I didn’t. At RAMROD Deli I didn’t feel well but drank a Coke and ate fruit. I knew my stomach couldn’t handle a sandwich. Without going into detail, my quick trip to the BR showed that I was seriously dehydrated. As I was finishing the Coke I looked up and to my horror, I saw about 25 riders rolling out and I didn’t have time to toss my garbage and get over to join them. I just stood there looking at empty bike racks. This was not a good situation as I pondered the long slog through predictable headwinds and heat (which reached 94 deg) and not feeling well already.

So I got on and pedaled slowly, the only speed I had. In about 10 minutes Andrew, a young man who was a gift from heaven (actually from Portland) came up and passed me without a word. He had a strong, steady pace so I jumped on his wheel anticipating not being able to go that fast. I guess the Coke worked and my legs also began to work. I concentrated on drinking Gatorade continuously from there on and energy food when possible. Eventually he let me take some pulls also and I was encouraged that I once again could deliver reasonable power for 3-4 minutes at a time between his 10-12 minute pulls. This went smoothly all the way to the Mud Mountain turnoff which seemed to come surprisingly quickly. We hadn’t passed anyone and no one passed us. I thanked Andrew for pulling me in, but he was quick to acknowledge that I helped keep him going, so I was pleased to have contributed. It was fun to experience how even a two person paceline is more efficient than a lone rider.

About a half mile from the finish, on a quiet country road, there was a sudden loud clanging cowbell being rung by none other than Mark Delrosario! He shouted encouragement which made me feel quite good from there to the finish line. Thanks Mark! Total time was 9 hr and 35 min; not the fasted I’ve done, but sure felt successful. Dwaine, who had arrived 20 minutes prior, greeted me and showed me where to find the pop sickles and soon Scott arrived. So all was good, well until I grabbed my bike to ride the 4 miles back to Jerrinne’s house and found a flat rear tire. It was the happiest flat tire I’ve ever had since it would have been so much more discouraging if it had happened out on the course. We got back to Dwaine’s trailer, said good-bye to the goats, and headed home.

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